How much power will it really take to go all electric?
Sean Welch - CleanMPG
- August 12, 2009
Can our national electricity grid handle the load of millions plugging in vehicles so that they can travel on battery propulsion? New Yorkers intend to find out.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, NYSERDA, has joined with the Electric Power Research Institute to conduct a new engineering study of the effects that plug-in hybrid vehicles might have on the state's electrical grid. Of particular interest is the impact on downstate, metropolitan New York grids due to the concentrated electric demand and vehicle population.
The study will complement a parallel national study that both organizations are cooperating in along with the Ford Motor Company. Plug-in hybrid vehicles combine the attributes of gasoline-hybrids and electric vehicles.
Francis J. Murray, Jr., NYSERDA President and CEO, said this effort comes at a crucial time. "This study will offer insight into the supply-side of the market where capacity is necessary to achieve wide public acceptance of these vehicles."
Plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies allow vehicles to plug into the electric grid to charge their high-capacity batteries and allow the vehicle's electric motor to do more of the work during the drive cycle, reducing the gasoline engine's workload.
Plug-in hybrids can achieve very high fuel economy, in some cases exceeding 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, at a reduced vehicle fueling cost and with reduced tailpipe emissions.
As acceptance of plug-in hybrid vehicles increases, the aggregated impact on the grid and associated emissions from power generating stations could be substantial, said Murray.
While the implications of increased penetration of plug-in hybrid vehicles have been studied generally on a national level and in several more localized regions, the specific impact to New York State has not yet been fully understood.
The study will address four issues:
- identification of the base-case scenario of transmission/distribution capacity, assuming no plug-in hybrid vehicles penetration
- identification of several realistic plug-in hybrid vehicles penetration scenarios, including vehicle characteristics and required load support
- identification of grid, environmental, and financial impacts of the various penetration scenarios
- implications of vehicle-to-grid applications - also called "V2G" or reverse charging, or, more technically, utility aggregated load control
"Our analysis will develop the definitive assessment of the impact of both introducing and the widespread use of plug-in hybrid vehicles onto the transmission and distribution systems," said Arshad Mansoor, vice president of power delivery and utilization at EPRI.
"This grid assessment is another crucial step that will lead to commercialization of plug-in hybrid vehicles," he said, "and NYSERDA deserves a lot of credit for taking this important initiative."
NYSERDA began exploring plug-in hybrid vehicle technology in 2006 as a way to reduce the gasoline consumption of vehicles operated by New York State agencies.
To date, the agency has procured and tested standard gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, such as the Ford Escape and Toyota Prius, that third-party vendors have converted to plug-in hybrid vehicles operation.
Based on a review of six different prototypes, one configuration has been chosen, and five Prius plug-in hybrid vehicles incorporating this design are now in operation at various New York State agencies. NYSERDA says this program may eventually encompass up to 600 vehicles.
Murray said, "Governor David Paterson has called for advancing battery technology in New York and specifically, plug-in hybrid vehicles as a way to reduce our use of fossil fuel and complement grid usage. Plug-in hybrid vehicles can serve as a high-value customer for wind power by recharging overnight when demand and rates are low, and wind power is most plentiful."
As long as charging is relegated mostly to overnight when the load is low, there shouldn't be undue stress added to the existing infrastructure. Hopefully this study will bear that out!